Chapter Two | Reading

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Zoë rounded onto pedestrian-heavy Princes Street, where she ran clutching her stolen goods like the characters in Trainspotting's opening scene. In the movie, they hoofed it down the same street from authorities, their stolen goods dropping all over the sidewalk. They'd been thieves too.

Her suit skirt rode up.

Stopping in front of Costa Coffee was a ruse to adjust her clothes; really, she couldn't run anymore. Zoë braced herself for the bookstore woman to grab her from behind, but nothing happened.

Since the rain stopped as quickly as it started, revealing a brilliant, blue sky, the other pedestrians glanced worriedly at her as she gasped in front of the coffee shop.

The woman from the bookstore had given up the chase.

As a storefront space-saving venture, the coffee shop's entrance was no more than a door and a stairwell up to the café.

Shrugging off her suit jacket, Zoë draped it over her arm and the book. She wasn't fooling anyone on the stairs, acting like she didn't need to gasp for air.

Buried between the pages of its host book, buffered by the jacket, the paper's irresistible pull held her. She hugged it to her chest like someone she'd never find again.

Zoë didn't believe some mysterious energy would make her commit a crime. She'd been the victim of theft before, and it sucked. The look on the woman's face in the bookstore wasn't simply outrage, but hurt.

If her family expected her to come back because of money or bootstrap issues, they'd have a collective aneurysm if she returned in handcuffs.

As Zoë took one step down toward the exit, a familiar Afro-Caribbean woman stopped in front of the door.

The bookseller.

She was on the phone, hugging her chest from having run without a coat, and shifted to let a customer through the door. While it was open, she cried, "I lost it ... I lost it... No, she's gone."

Zoë pressed against the wall, keeping her eyes on the door as it fell shut, muting the phone conversation. All it would take was a little courage to exit the café, shove the book in the woman's hand, and walk away.

Zoë squeezed the book to her chest and continued upstairs.

On the first floor — or second floor, as she knew it in America — Costa opened up like any café: wooden tables, cozy lighting, a refrigerated cabinet of bottled drinks, pastries, and toastable sandwiches. Zoë picked something for lunch, but kept an eye on everyone entering the establishment.

Two teenage girls with shopping bags.

A mom with a stroller.

An older paunchy guy with a newspaper under his arm.

They all bypassed the pre-packaged goods and ordered drinks from the barista.

"All right, hen?"

Zoë grabbed the first sandwich within reach.

The woman hadn't come up.

"Hen?"

The guy behind the counter reached over the pastry cabinet for the sandwich in her hand.

"Oh." Zoë gave it to him.

"Are you okay?"

She checked the door again. "Yeah."

"Any drink for you?"

"No."

She paid and took a seat in the far corner between two picture windows. No matter how she angled her head, she couldn't see the outside door. However, the windows offered a view of the castle on one side and the Scott Monument on the other. Any other time, the view would have wowed her.

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